It’s nearly 850 days since I last had an alcoholic drink or, as I like to put it, the day I decided to lead a better life.
Wow, don’t I sound sanctimonious? I don’t mean to. It’s just that cutting booze out your life is the real deal.
Sober October kicks off today and it’s a brilliant reason to give it a go. Yes, I know we are overwhelmed by awareness days/weeks/months – when aren’t we being asked to do something or other? – but, quite honestly, why not just try it? You’ll be raising money for Macmillan Cancer Support too.
Some people still believe I am ‘depriving’ myself by not drinking alcohol. I always think it’s such a strange thing to say. Would you say similar to someone who’d quit smoking? Probably not.
I am being straight-down-the-line honest when I say giving up alcohol is not about depriving yourself of anything worthwhile. In fact, it’s very freeing.
So, you’re robbed of hangovers? I can live without that. Denied an accidental blackout? Fine by me. Prevented from saying ‘never again’ for the millionth time? I’ll take it.
I’m not saying it wasn’t difficult in the beginning – of course it was! Changing any long-term habit has challenges. But once you accept that, and set about replacing habits with things you really want to be doing, it gets a little easier.
Inevitably, in the early days, you’ll feel a little fretful. If you’ve always reached for the wine glass on a Friday night after work (I did this a lot), then it’ll take time to adjust. So give yourself time. Go easy and take one day at a time.
When I quit, one of my worries was what I’d do on a Friday/Saturday night. Usually I would reach for the wine to unwind.
I gave this some thought on how to prepare because I didn’t want to stumble at the first hurdle. I knew my weekend habits needed to change so I set about disrupting my routine to help me through.
I found new ways of destressing – going for a walk/run/reading a book – and brought soft drinks such as flavoured tonic water and cordials. I tried ‘low or no’ alcohol drinks but found I wasn’t keen on ‘pretending’ to drink booze so didn’t do this for long. However, you may be different and find this works for you. There’s lots of choice which is great and shows we are shifting our societal norms around booze.
I told people of my intentions, mainly because I wanted to keep accountable. Sometimes saying things out loud solidifies thoughts into action (well, it does for me) and, more to the point, I wanted their support for what I was trying to do. It was touching when I would go to see friends or family and they’d provided drink for me sans alcohol.
I would remind myself often about the very real personal health and wellbeing benefits of my action. To me, that was sacrosanct; far more important than guzzling a nice red because it was on offer in the meal deal.
I’m alcohol free by choice today. I still choose not to drink because life without it is freer, healthier, more interesting. I am not deprived of anything I miss.
Being a non-drinker rules. Try it. You might like it too.